The Houston Zoo’s popular First Tuesday free admission program has been suspended for the summer due safety concerns during peak hours, according to The Houston Chronicle:
Houston Zoo directors have voted to suspend the popular First Tuesday promotion after approximately 12,000 visitors jammed the zoo and clogged surrounding streets during a three-hour period of free admission earlier this month.
Zoo president Deborah Cannon said traffic congestion around the zoo on the afternoon of June 5 brought reports of stranded ambulances. “We had numerous complaints from the Texas Medical Center,” she said Monday. “Police began to shut down roads ... to manage safety concerns. ... We don’t want anyone to die in an ambulance.”
Ambulances en route to emergency rooms at Ben Taub General Hospital and Memorial Hermann Hospital travel Cambridge Street, which forms the southern boundary of the zoo.
Houston EMS Assistant Chief David Almaguer said he had no knowledge of traffic problems on that date. Even on major holidays, he said, heavy traffic in the area is kept moving through the deployment of extra police officers.
Houston Zoo spokesman Brian Hill said the promotion, which provides free admission beginning at 2 p.m. on the first Tuesday of each month, will resume in September and continue through May.
Cannon said only about 8,000 people took advantage of the First Tuesday offer in June 2011. July 2011’s total reached about 11,000 and August 2011’s about 10,000. Normal weekday attendance during the summer ranges from 5,000 to 8,000.
The free admission program began in 2010. Cannon said zoo directors considered expanding the hours of free admission, essentially making the first Tuesday of the month free all day, but concluded the proposal only would move congestion to cooler morning hours.
Directors also were concerned because the next free Tuesday falls on July 3, just one day before the July 4 holiday, a virtual guarantee for heavier-than-usual attendance. Cannon theorized that June’s First Tuesday attendance spiked because, in a down economy, more people are staying in town.
General admission to the zoo is $13 for adults and $9 for children, but Cannon noted that discount promotions offered by local businesses will continue.
Lloyd Jacobson, blogger at HOUmanitarian.net, thought the situation was a great opportunity to educate and encourage Houstonians to use the Main Street light rail line:
In reaction to this story I wondered about why not encouraging these minivan suburbanites onto Metro in order to get to the zoo. So I tweeted the following for both the Zoo and Metro to see and react to:
“Parking concerns suspend free 1stTuesdays @HoustonZoo. Missed opty to introduce minivan-ers to @METROHouston ,Y-not free w/ train stub?!”
Only Metro responded with a standard promotional message, but one that confirms they already have a linkage for promotions with the zoo, and that staff there must already be familiar with Metro tickets which could be used as coupons.
”@HOUmanitarian If going to @HoustonZoo show ur METRORail ticket or METRO Q Card get $2 off an adult tix & $1 off a child’s admission.”
My response back to Metro and the Zoo again:
@METROHouston @HoustonZoo - GREAT! So there’s precedence. Given # of global species losing habitat to road development a FREE Tues wud be educationl too